These excerpts have been taken from Satswarup dasa Goswami's
Prabhupada-lilamrita ch 11-12.
With the manuscript for Volume Three complete and with the
money to print it, Bhaktivedanta Swami once again entered the
printing world, purchasing paper, correcting proofs, and keeping
the printer on schedule so that the book would be finished by
January 1965. Thus, by his persistence, he who had almost no money
of his own managed to publish his third large hardbound volume
within a little more than two years.
At this rate, with his respect in the scholarly world
increasing, he might soon become a recognized figure amongst his
countrymen. But he had his vision set on the West. And with the
third volume now printed, he felt he was at last prepared. He was
sixty-nine and would have to go soon. It had been more than forty
years since Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati had first asked a young
householder in Calcutta to preach Krishna consciousness in the
West. At first it had seemed impossible to Abhay Charan, who had so
recently entered family responsibilities. That obstacle, however,
had long ago been removed, and for more than ten years he had been
free to travel. But he had been penniless (and still was). And he
had wanted first to publish some volumes of Srimad-Bhagavatam to
take with him; it had seemed necessary if he were to do something
solid. Now, by Krishna's grace, three volumes were on hand.
Srila Prabhupada: I planned that I must go to America.
Generally they go to London, but I did not want to go to London. I
was simply thinking how to go to New York. I was scheming, “Whether
I shall go this way, through Tokyo, Japan, or that way? Which way
is cheaper?" That was my proposal. And I was targeting to New York
always. Sometimes I was dreaming that I have come to New
Then Bhaktivedanta Swami met Mr. Agarwal, a Mathura
businessman, and mentioned to him in passing, as he did to almost
everyone he met, that he wanted to go to the West. Although Mr.
Agarwal had known Bhaktivedanta Swami for only a few minutes, he
volunteered to try to get him a sponsor in America. It was
something Mr. Agarwal had done a number of times; when he met a
sadhu who mentioned something about going abroad to teach Hindu
culture, he would ask his son Gopal, an engineer in Pennsylvania,
to send back a sponsorship form. When Mr. Agarwal volunteered to
help in this way, Bhaktivedanta Swami urged him please to do
Srila Prabhupada: I did not say anything seriously to Mr.
Agarwal, but perhaps he took it very seriously. I asked him, “Well,
why don't you ask your son Gopal to sponsor so that I can go there?
I want to preach there."
But Bhaktivedanta Swami knew he could not simply dream of
going to the West; he needed money. In March 1965 he made another
visit to Bombay, attempting to sell his books. Again he stayed at
the free dharmasala, Premkutir. But finding customers was
difficult. He met Paramananda Bhagwani, a librarian at Jai Hind
College, who purchased books for the college library and then
escorted Bhaktivedanta Swami to a few likely outlets.
Mr. Bhagwani: I took him to the Popular Book Depot at Grant
Road to help him in selling books, but they told us they couldn't
stock the books because they don't have much sales on religion.
Then we went to another shop nearby, and the owner also regretted
his inability to sell the books. Then he went to Sadhuvela, near
Mahalakshmi temple, and we met the head of the temple there. He, of
course, welcomed us. They have a library of their own, and they
stock religious books, so we approached them to please keep a set
there in their library. They are a wealthy asrama, and yet he also
expressed his inability.
Bhaktivedanta Swami returned to Delhi, pursuing the usual
avenues of bookselling and looking for whatever opportunity might
arise. And to his surprise, he was contacted by the Ministry of
External Affairs and informed that his No Objection certificate for
going to the U.S. was ready. Since he had not instigated any
proceedings for leaving the country, Bhaktivedanta Swami had to
inquire from the ministry about what had happened. They showed him
the Statutory Declaration Form signed by Mr. Gopal Agarwal of
Butler, Pennsylvania; Mr. Agarwal solemnly declared that he would
bear the expenses of Bhaktivedanta Swami during his stay in the
Srila Prabhupada: Whatever the correspondence was there
between the father and son, I did not know. I simply asked him,
“Why don't you ask your son Gopal to sponsor?" And now, after three
or four months, the No Objection certificate was sent from the
Indian Consulate in New York to me. He had already sponsored my
arrival there for one month, and all of a sudden I got the
At his father's request, Gopal Agarwal had done as he had done
for several other sadhus, none of whom had ever gone to America. It
was just a formality, something to satisfy his father. Gopal had
requested a form from the Indian Consulate in New York, obtained a
statement from his employer certifying his monthly salary, gotten a
letter from his bank showing his balance as of April 1965, and had
the form notarized. It had been stamped and approved in New York
and sent to Delhi. Now Bhaktivedanta Swami had a sponsor. But he
still needed a passport, visa, P-form, and travel fare.
The passport was not very difficult to obtain. Krishna Pandit
helped, and by June 10 he had his passport. Carefully, he penned in
his address at the Radha-Krishna temple in Chippiwada and wrote his
father's name, Gour Mohan De. He asked Krishna Pandit also to pay
for his going abroad, but Krishna Pandit refused, thinking it
against Hindu principles for a sadhu to go abroad—and also very
With his passport and sponsorship papers, Bhaktivedanta Swami
went to Bombay, not to sell books or raise funds for printing; he
wanted a ticket for America. Again he tried approaching Sumati
Morarji. He showed his sponsorship papers to her secretary, Mr.
Choksi, who was impressed and who went to Mrs. Morarji on his
behalf. “The Swami from Vrindavana is back," he told her. “He has
published his book on your donation. He has a sponsor, and he wants
to go to America. He wants you to send him on a Scindia ship." Mrs.
Morarji said no, the Swamiji was too old to go to the United States
and expect to accomplish anything. As Mr. Choksi conveyed to him
Mrs. Morarji's words, Bhaktivedanta Swami listened disapprovingly.
She wanted him to stay in India and complete the Srimad-Bhagavatam.
Why go to the States? Finish the job here.
But Bhaktivedanta Swami was fixed on going. He told Mr. Choksi
that he should convince Mrs. Morarji. He coached Mr. Choksi on what
he should say: “I find this gentleman very inspired to go to the
States and preach something to the people there…" But when he told
Mrs. Morarji, she again said no. The Swami was not healthy. It
would be too cold there. He might not be able to come back, and she
doubted whether he would be able to accomplish much there. People
in America were not so cooperative, and they would probably not
listen to him.
Exasperated with Mr. Choksi's ineffectiveness, Bhaktivedanta
Swami demanded a personal interview. It was granted, and a
gray-haired, determined Bhaktivedanta Swami presented his emphatic
request: “Please give me one ticket."
Sumati Morarji was concerned. “Swamiji, you are so old—you are
taking this responsibility. Do you think it is all right?"
“No," he reassured her, lifting his hand as if to reassure a
doubting daughter, “it is all right."
“But do you know what my secretaries think? They say, “Swamiji
is going to die there.'"
Bhaktivedanta made a face as if to dismiss a foolish rumor.
Again he insisted that she give him a ticket. “All right," she
said. “Get your P-form, and I will make an arrangement to send you
by our ship." Bhaktivedanta Swami smiled brilliantly and happily
left her offices, past her amazed and skeptical clerks.
A “P-form"—another necessity for an Indian national who wants
to leave the country—is a certificate given by the State Bank of
India, certifying that the person has no excessive debts in India
and is cleared by the banks. That would take a while to obtain. And
he also did not yet have a U.S. visa. He needed to pursue these
government permissions in Bombay, but he had no place to stay. So
Mrs. Morarji agreed to let him reside at the Scindia Colony, a
compound of apartments for employees of the Scindia Company.
He stayed in a small, unfurnished apartment with only his
trunk and typewriter. The resident Scindia employees all knew that
Mrs. Morarji was sending him to the West, and some of them became
interested in his cause. They were impressed, for although he was
so old, he was going abroad to preach. He was a special sadhu, a
scholar. They heard from him how he was taking hundreds of copies
of his books with him, but no money. He became a celebrity at the
Scindia Colony. Various families brought him rice, sabji, and
fruit. They brought so much that he could not eat it all, and he
mentioned this to Mr. Choksi. Just accept it and distribute it, Mr.
Choksi advised. Bhaktivedanta Swami then began giving remnants of
his food to the children. Some of the older residents gathered to
hear him as he read and spoke from Srimad-Bhagavatam. Mr. Vasavada,
the chief cashier of Scindia, was particularly impressed and came
regularly to learn from the sadhu. Mr. Vasavada obtained copies of
Bhaktivedanta Swami's books and read them in his home.
Bhaktivedanta Swami's apartment shared a roofed-in veranda
with Mr. Nagarajan, a Scindia office worker, and his wife.
Mrs. Nagarajan: Every time when I passed that way, he used to
be writing or chanting. I would ask him, “Swamiji, what are you
writing?" He used to sit near the window and one after another was
translating the Sanskrit. He gave me two books and said, “Child, if
you read this book, you will understand." We would have discourses
in the house, and four or five Gujarati ladies used to come. At one
of these discourses he told one lady that those who wear their hair
parted on the side—that is not a good idea. Every Indian lady
should have her hair parted in the center. They were very fond of
listening and very keen to hear his discourse.
Every day he would go out trying to get his visa and P-form as
quickly as possible, selling his books, and seeking contacts and
supporters for his future Srimad-Bhagavatam publishing. Mr.
Nagarajan tried to help. Using the telephone directory, he made a
list of wealthy business and professional men who were Vaishnavas
and might be inclined to assist. Bhaktivedanta Swami's neighbors at
Scindia Colony observed him coming home dead tired in the evening.
He would sit quietly, perhaps feeling morose, some neighbors
thought, but after a while he would sit up, rejuvenated, and start
Mrs. Nagarajan: When he came home we used to give him courage,
and we used to tell him, “Swamiji, one day you will achieve your
target." He would say, “Time is still not right. Time is still not
right. They are all ajnanis. They don't understand. But still I
must carry on."
Sometimes I would go by, and his cadar would be on the chair,
but he would be sitting on the windowsill. I would ask him,
“Swamiji, did you have any good contacts?" He would say, “Not much
today. I didn't get much, and it is depressing. Tomorrow Krishna
will give me more details." And he would sit there quietly.
After ten minutes, he would sit in his chair and start
writing. I would wonder how Swamiji was so tired in one minute and
in another minuten Even if he was tired, he was not defeated. He
would never speak discouragement. And we would always encourage him
and say, “If today you don't get it, tomorrow you will definitely
meet some people, and they will encourage you." And my friends used
to come in the morning and in the evening for discourse, and they
would give namaskara and fruits.
Mr. Nagarajan: His temperament was very adjustable and homely.
Our friends would offer a few rupees. He would say, “All right. It
will help." He used to walk from our colony to Andheri station. It
is two kilometers, and he used to go there without taking a bus,
because he had no money.
Bhaktivedanta Swami had a page printed entitled “My Mission,"
and he would show it to influential men in his attempts to get
further financing for Srimad-Bhagavatam. The printed statement
proposed that God consciousness was the only remedy for the evils
of modern materialistic society. Despite scientific advancement and
material comforts, there was no peace in the world; therefore,
Bhagavad-gita and Srimad-Bhagavatam, the glory of India, must be
spread all over the world.
Mrs. Morarji asked Bhaktivedanta Swami if he would read
Srimad-Bhagavatam to her in the evening. He agreed. She began
sending her car for him at six o'clock each evening, and they would
sit in her garden, where he would recite and comment on the
Mrs. Morarji: He used to come in the evening and sing the
verses in rhythmic tunes, as is usually done with the Bhagavatam.
And certain points—when you sit and discuss, you raise so many
points—he was commenting on certain points, but it was all from the
Bhagavatam. So he used to sit and explain to me and then go. He
could give time, and I could hear him. That was for about ten or
His backing by Scindia and his sponsorship in the U.S. were a
strong presentation, and with the help of the people at Scindia he
obtained his visa on July 28, 1965. But the P-form proceedings went
slowly and even threatened to be a last, insurmountable
Srila Prabhupada: Formerly there was no restriction for going
outside. But for a sannyasi like me, I had so much difficulty
obtaining the government permission to go out. I had applied for
the P-form sanction, but no sanction was coming. Then I went to the
State Bank of India. The officer was Mr. Martarchari. He told me,
“Swamiji, you are sponsored by a private man. So we cannot accept.
If you were invited by some institution, then we could consider.
But you are invited by a private man for one month. And after one
month, if you are in difficulty, there will be so many obstacles."
But I had already prepared everything to go. So I said, “What have
you done?" He said, “I have decided not to sanction your P-form." I
said, “No, no, don't do this. You better send me to your superior.
It should not be like that."
So he took my request, and he sent the file to the chief
official of foreign exchange—something like that. So he was the
supreme man in the State Bank of India. I went to see him. I asked
his secretary, “Do you have such-and-such a file. You kindly put it
to Mr. Rao. I want to see him." So the secretary agreed, and he put
the file, and he put my name down to see him. I was waiting. So Mr.
Rao came personally. He said, “Swamiji, I passed your case. Don't
Following Mrs. Morarji's instruction, her secretary, Mr.
Choksi, made final arrangements for Bhaktivedanta Swami. Since he
had no warm clothes, Mr. Choksi took him to buy a wool jacket and
other woolen clothes. Mr. Choksi spent about 250 rupees on new
clothes, including some new dhotis. At Bhaktivedanta Swami's
request, Mr. Choksi printed five hundred copies of a small pamphlet
containing the eight verses written by Lord Caitanya and an
advertisement for Srimad-Bhagavatam, in the context of an
advertisement for the Scindia Steamship Company.
Mr. Choksi: I asked him, “Why couldn't you go earlier? Why do
you want to go now to the States, at this age?" He replied that, “I
will be able to do something good, I am sure." His idea was that
someone should be there who would be able to go near people who
were lost in life and teach them and tell them what the correct
thing is. I asked him so many times, “Why do you want to go to the
States? Why don't you start something in Bombay or Delhi or
Vrindavana?" I was teasing him also: “You are interested in seeing
the States. Therefore, you want to go. All Swamijis want to go to
the States, and you want to enjoy there." He said, “What I have got
to see? I have finished my life."
But sometimes he was hot-tempered. He used to get angry at me
for the delays. “What is this nonsense?" he would say. Then I would
understand: he is getting angry now. Sometimes he would say, “Oh,
Mrs. Morarji has still not signed this paper? She says come back
tomorrow, we will talk tomorrow! What is this? Why this daily going
back?" He would get angry. Then I would say, “You can sit here."
But he would say, “How long do I have to sit?" He would become
Finally Mrs. Morarji scheduled a place for him on one of her
ships, the Jaladuta, which was sailing from Calcutta on August 13.
She had made certain that he would travel on a ship whose captain
understood the needs of a vegetarian and a brahmana. Mrs. Morarji
told the Jaladuta's captain, Arun Pandia, to carry extra vegetables
and fruits for the Swami. Mr. Choksi spent the last two days with
Bhaktivedanta Swami in Bombay, picking up the pamphlets at the
press, purchasing clothes, and driving him to the station to catch
the train for Calcutta.
He arrived in Calcutta about two weeks before the Jaladuta's
departure. Although he had lived much of his life in the city, he
now had nowhere to stay. It was as he had written in his
“Vrindavana-bhajana": “I have my wife, sons, daughters, grandsons,
everything, / But I have no money, so they are a fruitless glory."
Although in this city he had been so carefully nurtured as a child,
those early days were also gone forever: “Where have my loving
father and mother gone to now? / And where are all my elders, who
were my own folk? / Who will give me news of them, tell me who? /
All that is left of this family life is a list of names."
Out of the hundreds of people in Calcutta whom Bhaktivedanta
Swami knew, he chose to call on Mr. Sisir Bhattacarya, the
flamboyant kirtana singer he had met a year before at the
governor's house in Lucknow. Mr. Bhattacarya was not a relative,
not a disciple, nor even a close friend; but he was willing to
help. Bhaktivedanta Swami called at his place and informed him that
he would be leaving on a cargo ship in a few days; he needed a
place to stay, and he would like to give some lectures. Mr.
Bhattacarya immediately began to arrange a few private meetings at
friends' homes, where he would sing and Bhaktivedanta Swami would
Mr. Bhattacarya thought the sadhu's leaving for America should
make an important news story. He accompanied Bhaktivedanta Swami to
all the newspapers in Calcutta—the Hindustan Standard, the Amrita
Bazar Patrika, the Jugantas, the Statesman, and others.
Bhaktivedanta Swami had only one photograph, a passport photo, and
they made a few copies for the newspapers. Mr. Bhattacarya would
try to explain what the Swami was going to do, and the news writers
would listen. But none of them wrote anything. Finally they visited
the Dainik Basumati, a local Bengali daily, which agreed to print a
small article with Bhaktivedanta Swami's picture.
A week before his departure, on August 6, Bhaktivedanta Swami
traveled to nearby Mayapur to visit the samadhi of Srila
Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati. Then he returned to Calcutta, where Mr.
Bhattacarya continued to assist him with his final business and
Mr. Bhattacarya: We just took a hired taxi to this place and
that place. And he would go for preaching. I never talked to him
during the preaching, but once when I was coming back from the
preaching, I said, “You said this thing about this. But I tell you
it is not this. It is this." I crossed him in something or argued.
And he was furious. Whenever we argued and I said, “No, I think
this is this," then he was shouting. He was very furious. He said,
“You are always saying, “I think, I think, I think.' What is the
importance of what you think? Everything is what you think. But it
doesn't matter. It matters what sastra says. You must follow." I
said, “I must do what I think, what I feel—that is important." He
said, “No, you should forget this. You should forget your desire.
You should change your habit. Better you depend on sastras. You
follow what sastra wants you to do, and do it. I am not telling you
what I think, but I am repeating what the sastra says."
As the day of his departure approached, Bhaktivedanta Swami
took stock of his meager possessions. He had only a suitcase, an
umbrella, and a supply of dry cereal. He did not know what he would
find to eat in America; perhaps there would be only meat. If so, he
was prepared to live on boiled potatoes and the cereal. His main
baggage, several trunks of his books, was being handled separately
by Scindia Cargo. Two hundred three-volume sets—the very thought of
the books gave him confidence.
When the day came for him to leave, he needed that confidence.
He was making a momentous break with his previous life, and he was
dangerously old and not in strong health. And he was going to an
unknown and probably unwelcoming country. To be poor and unknown in
India was one thing. Even in these Kali-yuga days, when India's
leaders were rejecting Vedic culture and imitating the West, it was
still India; it was still the remains of Vedic civilization. He had
been able to see millionaires, governors, the prime minister,
simply by showing up at their doors and waiting. A sannyasi was
respected; the Srimad-Bhagavatam was respected. But in America it
would be different. He would be no one, a foreigner. And there was
no tradition of sadhus, no temples, no free asramas. But when he
thought of the books he was bringing—transcendental knowledge in
English—he became confident. When he met someone in America he
would give him a flyer: ““Srimad Bhagwatam,' India's Message of
Peace and Goodwill."
It was August 13, just a few days before Janmashtami, the
appearance day anniversary of Lord Krishna—the next day would be
his own sixty-ninth birthday. During these last years, he had been
in Vrindavana for Janmashtami. Many Vrindavana residents would
never leave there; they were old and at peace in Vrindavana.
Bhaktivedanta Swami was also concerned that he might die away from
Vrindavana. That was why all the Vaishnava sadhus and widows had
taken vows not to leave, even for Mathura—because to die in
Vrindavana was the perfection of life. And the Hindu tradition was
that a sannyasi should not cross the ocean and go to the land of
the mlecchas. But beyond all that was the desire of Srila
Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, and his desire was nondifferent from
that of Lord Krishna. And Lord Caitanya Mahaprabhu had predicted
that the chanting of Hare Krishna would be known in every town and
village of the world.
Bhaktivedanta Swami took a taxi down to the Calcutta port. A
few friends and admirers, along with his son Vrindavan, accompanied
him. He writes in his diary: “Today at 9 a.m. embarked on M.V.
Jaladuta. Came with me Bhagwati, the Dwarwan of Scindia Sansir, Mr.
Sen Gupta, Mr. Ali and Vrindaban." He was carrying a Bengali copy
of Caitanya-caritamrita, which he intended to read during the
crossing. Somehow he would be able to cook on board. Or if not, he
could starve— whatever Krishna desired. He checked his essentials:
passenger ticket, passport, visa, P-form, sponsor's address.
Finally it was happening.
Srila Prabhupada: With what great difficulty I got out of the
country! Some way or other, by Krishna's grace, I got out so I
could spread the Krishna consciousness movement all over the world.
Otherwise, to remain in India—it was not possible. I wanted to
start a movement in India, but I was not at all encouraged.
The black cargo ship, small and weathered, was moored at
dockside, a gangway leading from the dock to the ship's deck.
Indian merchant sailors curiously eyed the elderly saffron-dressed
sadhu as he spoke last words to his companions and then left them
and walked determinedly toward the boat.
For thousands of years, krishna-bhakti had been known only in
India, not outside, except in twisted, faithless reports by
foreigners. And the only swamis to have reached America had been
nondevotees, Mayavadi impersonalists. But now Krishna was sending
Bhaktivedanta Swami as His emissary.
SPL 12: The Journey to America
The Journey to America
Today the ship is plying very smoothly. I feel today better.
But I am feeling separation from Sri Vrindaban and my Lords Sri
Govinda, Gopinath, Radha Damodar. My only solace is Sri Chaitanya
Charitamrita in which I am tasting the nectarine of Lord
Chaitanya's lila. I have left Baharatabhumi just to execute the
order of Sri Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati, in pursuance of Lord
Chaitanya's order. I have no qualification, but have taken up the
risk just to carry out the order of His Divine Grace. I depend
fully on Their mercy, so far away from Vrindaban.
September 10, 1965
The Jaladuta is a regular cargo carrier of the Scindia Steam
Navigation Company, but there is a passenger cabin aboard. During
the voyage from Calcutta to New York in August and September of
1965, the cabin was occupied by “Sri Abhoy Charanaravinda
Bhaktivedanta Swami," whose age was listed as sixty-nine and who
was taken on board bearing “a complimentary ticket with
The Jaladuta, under the command of Captain Arun Pandia, whose
wife was also aboard, left at 9:00 A.M. on Friday, August 13. In
his diary, Srila Prabhupada noted: “The cabin is quite comfortable,
thanks to Lord Sri Krishna for enlightening Sumati Morarji for all
these arrangements. I am quite comfortable." But on the fourteenth
he reported: “Seasickness, dizziness, vomiting—Bay of Bengal. Heavy
rains. More sickness."
On the nineteenth, when the ship arrived at Colombo, Ceylon
(now Sri Lanka), Prabhupada was able to get relief from his
seasickness. The captain took him ashore, and he traveled around
Colombo by car. Then the ship went on toward Cochin, on the west
coast of India. Janmashtami, the appearance day of Lord Krishna,
fell on the twentieth of August that year. Prabhupada took the
opportunity to speak to the crew about the philosophy of Lord
Krishna, and he distributed prasadam he had cooked himself. August
21 was his seventieth birthday, observed (without ceremony) at sea.
That same day the ship arrived at Cochin, and Srila Prabhupada's
trunks of Srimad-Bhagavatam volumes, which had been shipped from
Bombay, were loaded on board.
By the twenty-third the ship had put out to the Red Sea, where
Srila Prabhupada encountered great difficulty. He noted in his
diary: “Rain, seasickness, dizziness, headache, no appetite,
vomiting." The symptoms persisted, but it was more than
seasickness. The pains in his chest made him think he would die at
any moment. In two days he suffered two heart attacks. He tolerated
the difficulty, meditating on the purpose of his mission, but after
two days of such violent attacks he thought that if another were to
come he would certainly not survive.
On the night of the second day, Prabhupada had a dream. Lord
Krishna, in His many forms, was rowing a boat, and He told
Prabhupada that he should not fear, but should come along.
Prabhupada felt assured of Lord Krishna's protection, and the
violent attacks did not recur.
The Jaladuta entered the Suez Canal on September 1 and stopped
in Port Sa'id on the second. Srila Prabhupada visited the city with
the captain and said that he liked it. By the sixth he had
recovered a little from his illness and was eating regularly again
for the first time in two weeks, having cooked his own kichari and
puris. He reported in his diary that his strength renewed little by
Thursday, September 9
To 4:00 this afternoon, we have crossed over the Atlantic
Ocean for twenty-four hours. The whole day was clear and almost
smooth. I am taking my food regularly and have got some strength to
struggle. There is also a slight tacking of the ship and I am
feeling a slight headache also. But I am struggling and the
nectarine of life is Sri Chaitanya Charitamrita, the source of all
Friday, September 10
Today the ship is plying very smoothly. I feel today better.
But I am feeling separation from Sri Vrindaban and my Lords Sri
Govinda, Gopinath, Radha Damodar. The only solace is Sri Chaitanya
Charitamrita in which I am tasting the nectarine of Lord
Chaitanya's lila [pastimes]. I have left Bharatabhumi just to
execute the order of Sri Bhaktisiddhanta Saraswati in pursuance of
Lord Chaitanya's order. I have no qualification, but have taken up
the risk just to carry out the order of His Divine Grace. I depend
fully on Their mercy, so far away from Vrindaban.
During the voyage, Srila Prabhupada sometimes stood on deck at
the ship's rail, watching the ocean and the sky and thinking of
Caitanya-caritamrita, Vrindavana-dhama, and the order of his
spiritual master to go preach in the West. Mrs. Pandia, the
captain's wife, whom Srila Prabhupada considered to be “an
intelligent and learned lady," foretold Srila Prabhupada's future.
If he were to pass beyond this crisis in his health, she said, it
would indicate the good will of Lord Krishna.
The ocean voyage of 1965 was a calm one for the Jaladuta. The
captain said that never in his entire career had he seen such a
calm Atlantic crossing. Prabhupada replied that the calmness was
Lord Krishna's mercy, and Mrs. Pandia asked Prabhupada to come back
with them so that they might have another such crossing. Srila
Prabhupada wrote in his diary, “If the Atlantic would have shown
its usual face, perhaps I would have died. But Lord Krishna has
taken charge of the ship."
On September 13, Prabhupada noted in his diary: “Thirty-second
day of journey. Cooked bati kichari. It appeared to be delicious,
so I was able to take some food. Today I have disclosed my mind to
my companion, Lord Sri Krishna. There is a Bengali poem made by me
in this connection."
This poem was a prayer to Lord Krishna, and it is filled with
Prabhupada's devotional confidence in the mission that he had
undertaken on behalf of his spiritual master. An English
translation of the opening stanzas follows:*
I emphatically say to you, O brothers, you will obtain your
good fortune from the Supreme Lord Krishna only when Srimati
Radharani becomes pleased with you.
Sri Srimad Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura, who is very dear
to Lord Gauranga [Lord Caitanya], the son of mother Saci, is
unparalleled in his service to the Supreme Lord Sri Krishna. He is
that great, saintly spiritual master who bestows intense devotion
to Krishna at different places throughout the world.
By his strong desire, the holy name of Lord Gauranga will
spread throughout all the countries of the Western world. In all
the cities, towns, and villages on the earth, from all the oceans,
seas, rivers, and streams, everyone will chant the holy name of
As the vast mercy of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu conquers all
directions, a flood of transcendental ecstasy will certainly cover
the land. When all the sinful, miserable living entities become
happy, the Vaishnavas' desire is then fulfilled.
Although my Guru Maharaja ordered me to accomplish this
mission, I am not worthy or fit to do it. I am very fallen and
insignificant. Therefore, O Lord, now I am begging for Your mercy
so that I may become worthy, for You are the wisest and most
experienced of all…
The poem ends:
Today that remembrance of You came to me in a very nice way.
Because I have a great longing I called to You. I am Your eternal
servant, and therefore I desire Your association so much. O Lord
Krishna, except for You there is no means of success.
In the same straightforward, factual manner in which he had
noted the date, the weather, and his state of health, he now
described his helpless dependence on his “companion, Lord Krishna,"
and his absorption in the ecstasy of separation from Krishna. He
described the relationship between the spiritual master and the
disciple, and he praised his own spiritual master, Sri Srimad
Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati, “by whose strong desire the holy name of
Lord Gauranga will spread throughout all the countries of the
Western world." He plainly stated that his spiritual master had
ordered him to accomplish this mission of worldwide Krishna
consciousness, and feeling unworthy he prayed to Lord Krishna for
strength. The last verses give an unexpected, confidential glimpse
into Srila Prabhupada's direct relationship with Lord Krishna.
Prabhupada called on Krishna as his “dear friend" and longed for
the joy of again wandering the fields of Vraja. This memory of
Krishna, he wrote, came because of a great desire to serve the
Lord. Externally, Srila Prabhupada was experiencing great
inconvenience; he had been aboard ship for a month and had suffered
heart attacks and repeated seasickness. Moreover, even if he were
to recover from these difficulties, his arrival in America would
undoubtedly bring many more difficulties. But remembering the
desire of his spiritual master, taking strength from his reading of
Caitanya-caritamrita, and revealing his mind in his prayer to Lord
Krishna, Prabhupada remained confident.
After a thirty-five-day journey from Calcutta, the Jaladuta
reached Boston's Commonwealth Pier at 5:30 A.M. on September 17,
1965. The ship was to stop briefly in Boston before proceeding to
New York City. Among the first things Srila Prabhupada saw in
America were the letters “A & P" painted on a pierfront
warehouse. The gray waterfront dawn revealed the ships in the
harbor, a conglomeration of lobster stands and drab buildings, and,
rising in the distance, the Boston skyline.
Prabhupada had to pass through U.S. Immigration and Customs in
Boston. His visa allowed him a three-month stay, and an official
stamped it to indicate his expected date of departure. Captain
Pandia invited Prabhupada to take a walk into Boston, where the
captain intended to do some shopping. They walked across a
footbridge into a busy commercial area with old churches,
warehouses, office buildings, bars, tawdry bookshops, nightclubs,
and restaurants. Prabhupada briefly observed the city, but the most
significant thing about his short stay in Boston, aside from the
fact that he had now set foot in America, was that at Commonwealth
Pier he wrote another Bengali poem, entitled “Markine
Bhagavata-dharma" (“Teaching Krishna Consciousness in America").
Some of the verses he wrote on board the ship that day are as
My dear Lord Krishna, You are so kind upon this useless soul,
but I do not know why You have brought me here. Now You can do
whatever You like with me.
But I guess You have some business here, otherwise why would
You bring me to this terrible place?
Most of the population here is covered by the material modes
of ignorance and passion. Absorbed in material life they think
themselves very happy and satisfied, and therefore they have no
taste for the transcendental message of Vasudeva [Krishna]. I do
not know how they will be able to understand it.
But I know that Your causeless mercy can make everything
possible, because You are the most expert mystic.
How will they understand the mellows of devotional service? O
Lord, I am simply praying for Your mercy so that I will be able to
convince them about Your message.
All living entities have come under the control of the
illusory energy by Your will, and therefore, if You like, by Your
will they can also be released from the clutches of illusion.
I wish that You may deliver them. Therefore if You so desire
their deliverance, then only will they be able to understand Your
How will I make them understand this message of Krishna
consciousness? I am very unfortunate, unqualified, and the most
fallen. Therefore I am seeking Your benediction so that I can
convince them, for I am powerless to do so on my own.
Somehow or other, O Lord, You have brought me here to speak
about You. Now, my Lord, it is up to You to make me a success or
failure, as You like.
O spiritual master of all the worlds! I can simply repeat Your
message. So if You like You can make my power of speaking suitable
for their understanding.
Only by Your causeless mercy will my words become pure. I am
sure that when this transcendental message penetrates their hearts,
they will certainly feel gladdened and thus become liberated from
all unhappy conditions of life.
O Lord, I am just like a puppet in Your hands. So if You have
brought me here to dance, then make me dance, make me dance, O
Lord, make me dance as You like.
I have no devotion, nor do I have any knowledge, but I have
strong faith in the holy name of Krishna. I have been designated as
Bhaktivedanta, and now, if You like, You can fulfill the real
purport of Bhaktivedanta.
Signed—the most unfortunate, insignificant beggar,
A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami,
On board the ship Jaladuta, Commonwealth Pier,
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
Dated 18th September 1965.
He was now in America. He was in a major American city, rich
with billions, populated with millions, and determined to stay the
way it was. Prabhupada saw Boston from the viewpoint of a pure
devotee of Krishna. He saw the hellish city life, people dedicated
to the illusion of material happiness. All his dedication and
training moved him to give these people the transcendental
knowledge and saving grace of Krishna consciousness, yet he was
feeling weak, lowly, and unable to help them on his own. He was but
“an insignificant beggar" with no money. He had barely survived the
two heart attacks at sea, he spoke a different language, he dressed
strangely—yet he had come to tell people to give up meat-eating,
illicit sex, intoxication, and gambling, and to teach them to
worship Lord Krishna, who to them was a mythical Hindu god. What
would he be able to accomplish?
Helplessly he spoke his heart directly to God: “I wish that
You may deliver them. I am seeking Your benediction so that I can
convince them." And for convincing them he would trust in the power
of God's holy name and in the Srimad-Bhagavatam. This
transcendental sound would clean away desire for material enjoyment
from their hearts and awaken loving service to Krishna. On the
streets of Boston, Prabhupada was aware of the power of ignorance
and passion that dominated the city; but he had faith in the
transcendental process. He was tiny, but God was infinite, and God
was Krishna, his dear friend.
On the nineteenth of September the Jaladuta sailed into New
York Harbor and docked at a Brooklyn pier, at Seventeenth Street.
Srila Prabhupada saw the awesome Manhattan skyline, the Empire
State Building, and, like millions of visitors and immigrants in
the past, the Statue of Liberty.
Srila Prabhupada was dressed appropriately for a resident of
Vrindavana. He wore kanthi-mala (neck beads) and a simple cotton
dhoti, and he carried japa-mala (chanting beads) and an old chadar,
or shawl. His complexion was golden, his head shaven, sikha in the
back, his forehead decorated with the whitish Vaishnava tilaka. He
wore pointed white rubber slippers, not uncommon for sadhus in
India. But who in New York had ever seen or dreamed of anyone
appearing like this Vaishnava? He was possibly the first Vaishnava
sannyasi to arrive in New York with uncompromised appearance. Of
course, New Yorkers have an expertise in not giving much attention
to any kind of strange new arrival.
Srila Prabhupada was on his own. He had a sponsor, Mr.
Agarwal, somewhere in Pennsylvania. Surely someone would be here to
greet him. Although he had little idea of what to do as he walked
off the ship onto the pier—“I did not know whether to turn left or
right"—he passed through the dockside formalities and was met by a
representative from Traveler's Aid, sent by the Agarwals in
Pennsylvania, who offered to take him to the Scindia ticket office
in Manhattan to book his return passage to India.
At the Scindia office, Prabhupada spoke with the ticket agent,
Joseph Foerster, who was impressed by this unusual passenger's
Vaishnava appearance, his light luggage, and his apparent poverty.
He regarded Prabhupada as a priest. Most of Scindia's passengers
were businessmen or families, so Mr. Foerster had never seen a
passenger wearing the traditional Vaishnava dress of India. He
found Srila Prabhupada to be “a pleasant gentleman" who spoke of
“the nice accommodations and treatment he had received aboard the
Jaladuta." Prabhupada asked Mr. Foerster to hold space for him on a
return ship to India. His plans were to leave in about two months,
and he told Mr. Foerster that he would keep in touch. Carrying only
forty rupees cash, which he himself called “a few hours' spending
in New York," and an additional twenty dollars he had collected
from selling three volumes of the Bhagavatam to Captain Pandia,
Srila Prabhupada, with umbrella and suitcase in hand, and still
escorted by the Traveler's Aid representative, set out for the Port
Authority Bus Terminal to arrange for his trip to Butler.
(These excerpts have been taken from Satswarup dasa Goswami's
Prabhupada-lilamrita ch 11-12.)